Planning for Long-Term Care

While a frank and informed discussion about present and future medical and personal needs can secure the most suitable type of long-term care at the right time, many people find the topic discomforting. Others are in outright denial about the possibility of requiring long-term care. While the aging population, longer life spans, rising health care costs, and an ever-increasing strain on government services ought to compel all those over the age of 40 to prepare for the possibility of long-term care, that’s not the case today. Most Americans have not seriously considered or planned for the emotional and financial consequences of aging. Many are not even familiar with the care options available, and most, when the time comes, will be shocked by the associated costs.

 

Some people fail to plan simply because of misinformation or lack of information. Many believe that Medicare, Medicaid, or their health insurance will pay for long-term care. Medicare pays for LTC services only for a short period, and only if the care is required following hospitalization. State Medicaid programs pay only for the financially needy and only when other qualifying criteria are met. Traditional health and medical expense insurance does not cover long-term care at all. Consumers need to be aware of these facts and be informed of the options they do have with respect to long-term care. Having reliable information helps ensure that appropriate options are considered if and when the need arises. An informed consumer is more likely to retain choice and control over where and how services are provided.

 

Fear of aging and its associated problems are clearly obstacles to planning for long-term care. Unfortunately, fear often leads to denial, and denial prevents people from aptly assessing their long-term care needs and taking the appropriate action to address those needs. Yet for every reason why people do not plan in advance for long-term care needs, there is a reason why they should. The advantages of planning ahead are many:

 

    Planning ahead for long-term care is important, because there is a good chance an individual will need some level of long-term care if he or she lives beyond the age of 65.

    Planning ahead helps one understand the available LTC services, eligibility criteria, cost, and public and private payment options.

    Planning ahead forces a person to face the fact that the cost of long-term care services often exceeds what the average person can pay from income and other personal resources. By planning ahead, assets and income can be preserved for uses other than long-term care, including preserving the quality of life for a spouse or other loved ones.

    Planning ahead means less emotional and financial stress on family members.

    Finally, planning ahead helps ensure greater independence if and when the need occurs.

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